This volume, published posthumously, reflects the desire of the author to provide an easy-to-read guide for those who are unfamiliar with the Bible. James E. Ball, a teacher by trade, describes his motivation: “It was my lack of understanding of how the Bible is organized that kept me from understanding it.” So here, in a Q & A style, he responds to some common queries of his students while also recommending further study.
Questions vary widely: “How do you eat an elephant?” “Where did the Bible come from?” “What about women?” Answers, explained in layman’s terms and in conversational tones, range from a few paragraphs to several pages. An included question commonly addressed by other books — “How do I study the Bible?” — is not listed formally in the [Table of] Contents, yet nonetheless contains a right-on-target answer in a five-point response, a clear response that is somewhat missing in the other questions.
With no footnotes or bibliography to back up the answers, however, the book reads more like one man’s viewpoint based on personal research rather than a true “User’s Guide.” Scripture verses, sometimes quoted for pages, get lost in the same-size text, and the printed format of the book would read smoother with variety in the font. The [Table of] Contents would be more helpful if it were numbered into categorical chapters with clear subtopics, rather than simply listing questions tackled. Additionally, the author switches between first-, second-, and third-person narrative, while grammatical errors and a general lack of focus somewhat distract the reader.
The book reflects the intent of the author to teach “the structure, organization, and story of the Bible” in a broad way. Despite its flaws, it presents some useful ideas for the beginning Bible student.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.